Board Games and Puzzle Games For Solo Gaming!

stack of games

[Image courtesy of StoreMyBoardGames.com.]

Friend of the blog Lori reached out to me last week and asked about the best puzzle games and board games for solo play. A pal of hers was in need of game-centric distraction, and given the current global circumstances, she had no one with whom to play.

Never fear, friend-of-friend! We’ve got you covered.

There are all sorts of puzzles and games out there to keep you busy, and we’ll do our best to collect a few examples from different play style to provide a host of options.

So, without further ado, let’s look at some single-play fun!


Puzzle Games

thinkfun many

ThinkFun

When it comes to one-player puzzle games, ThinkFun should be your first stop. They’ve got puzzles with magnets, electrical circuits, marbles, dominoes, putty, rollercoasters, robots, computer programming, and LASERS. Whether you like disentanglement puzzles, logic puzzles, or mechanical puzzles, any one of these games is a terrific place to start.

[Link for more details.]

Knot Dice

Inspired by Celtic knot designs, Knot Dice is a puzzle game where you must turn, twist, and spin these beautiful dice to complete elaborate patterns. A handbook full of single-player (and multi-player) puzzles is included to get you started, but honestly, sometimes you can just roll the dice out, arrange them, and then challenge yourself to complete the pattern!

[Link for more details.]

enigmasmall

Wish You Were Here

Imagine an entire mystery hidden across a handful of postcards. That’s the multilayered puzzle experience offered by Wish You Were Here, where a series of coded messages awaits you. An entire narrative unfolds based on the clues you uncover and the puzzles you solve. It’s code-breaking, puzzling, and spycraft all in one.

[Link for more details.]

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Puzzometry

If you’re looking for a jigsaw-style challenge, Puzzometry might be your puzzle of choice. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available in seven different formats — including Puzzometry, Puzzometry Jr., Puzzometry Squares, and Puzzometry Hex — there are different levels of difficulty and different challenges posed by each.

[Link for more details.]


Board Games Designed for Solo Play

There is a small but thriving market for solo board games, which cleverly alter established game mechanics to pit you against the game itself.

black sonata

[Image courtesy of Board Game Geek.]

Black Sonata

In this movement and deduction game, you are a 17th-century detective, exploring London while trying to hunt down the identity of the Dark Lady who inspired Shakespeare’s sonnets. As you pick up clues to her identity and search for her in different locales, a stealth deck determines the Dark Lady’s movements. It’s a very cool mechanic that holds up after multiple replays.

[Link for more details.]

coffee roaster

[Image courtesy of Board Game Geek.]

Coffee Roaster

Have you ever tried to brew the perfect blend of coffee? Then Coffee Roaster might be up your alley. In this game, you randomly draw tokens representing coffee beans in order to roast them and improve your score based on their taste value. The game quickly becomes a balancing act of roasting the bean to its target level while handling other tasks. This mix of skill and random draw adds spice to a game all about flavor.

[Link for more details.]

sherlock holmes

[Image courtesy of Board Game Geek.]

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective

Have you ever wanted to be the Great Detective, deciphering strange clues, finding evidence, and unraveling peculiar crimes? The closest thing I’ve found to being Holmes is playing Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, where a number of mysteries await the player. (You can play this game with up to 8 people, but the solo game proves to be a challenge worthy of master gamers and puzzlers.

[Link for more details.]

palm island

[Image courtesy of Board Game Geek.]

Palm Island

Many games are designed for ease of travel, but this is the only one I know that fits in the palm of your hand. Build your island, gather resources, and conquer challenges as you hold the fate of your island in your hand. With only 17 cards involved in the entire game, there’s a staggering amount of replay value included.

[Link for more details.]


Solo Mazes/Dungeons/Labyrinths

One subset of the single-player game genre is labyrinth-style gameplay, games where the player must explore and/or escape a labyrinth, dungeon, or other maze that unfolds in front of them and is different every time you play.

one deck

[Image courtesy of Board Game Geek.]

One Deck Dungeon

Essentially an entire roleplaying campaign distilled into a single-player experience, One Deck Dungeon allows you to defeat enemies, outwit other dangers, and explore a dungeon as your character develops new skills and gains valuable insights into their quest. You can play standalone games or an ongoing campaign as your character grows into a full-fledged master dungeon raider.

[Link for more details.]

(There’s another game, 5-Minute Dungeon, that scratches a similar itch.)

onirim

[Image courtesy of Board Game Geek.]

Onirim

Instead of a dungeon or a labyrinth, here you explore a realm of dreams, trying to find the keys necessary to unlock the doors and escape before the deck of cards runs out. With a 15-minute play time, a fun setup, and multiple expansions which add new wrinkles to future games, you’ll want to journey into the dreamworld again and again.

[Link for more details.]

The Abandons

Probably the toughest of the dungeon romp games, The Abandons pits you against a merciless labyrinth with limited resources and the deck literally stacked against you. You’ll need luck, quick decision making, and puzzly skill on your side to see daylight again with this one.

[Link for more details.]


Solo/Multi-Player Games

Finally, here are some great games that are best known as multi-player games, but with solo modes that still capture the playing experience.

jetpack6

Jetpack Joyride

Plenty of games are about getting from Point A to Point B, but Jetpack Joyride makes the journey a puzzly delight. You must pilot yourself through a random collection of grids, using only a handful of Tetris-like game pieces to represent your path. You must complete your goals and escape, all without reusing a single Tetris piece. Jetpack Joyride combines puzzles and board games for a unique and fun gaming experience.

[Link for more details.]

Sagrada

One of the most beautiful strategy games on the market today, Sagrada is a singularly peaceful gaming experience. In this game, you’re trying to build a beautiful stained glass window out of dice while dealing with the requirements of your particular window AND the random dice rolled for your particular game. It’s challenging, soothing, and infinitely replayable.

[Link for more details.]

on the dot

[Image courtesy of eBay.]

On the Dot

On the Dot is a pattern-matching game. You have four clear cards with randomly-placed colored dots on them, and you must arrange all four cards so that the colored dots showing match a given pattern. Although this game is usually played in groups with the first person to complete the pattern winning that card, you can easily challenge yourself to see how fast you can conquer the various patterned cards awaiting you.

[Link for more details.]

bananagrams

[Image courtesy of Board Game Geek.]

Bananagrams

Bananagrams is a tile game where, much like Scrabble, players pull letter tiles and try to form small crossword-like grids. But in Bananagrams, you can anagram and rearrange the grid as needed, instead of being locked into using the words you’ve already played. This game will test your vocabulary and your anagramming skills, but it’s always satisfying to hear the tiles click as they’re placed beside each other.

[Link for more details.]

castle panic

[Image courtesy of Board Game Geek.]

Castle Panic!

You have to defend your castle in the center of the board from monsters on all sides in this deviously enjoyable game. Careful strategy and planning is critical in stopping them from taking down your defenses, collapsing your towers, and leaving your castle in ruins. Randomness can play a big role in this game, but even when you lose, you still enjoy the adventure.

[Link for more details.]

Honestly, most cooperative games like Castle Panic! can be played solo, since it’s you vs. the game. (You just might have to play more than one character to do so.)

In Forbidden Island, you must collect treasures and escape a sinking island. In Flash Point, you’re a fireman trying to fight a building fire and rescue the trapped occupants. In Burgle Bros., you run a team of robbers trying to pull off a heist in a multi-story building you have to climb in order to escape with the loot.

These are just a few of the cooperative games that really adapt nicely to a one-player game experience. (Some folks would recommend Pandemic as well, but I’ve found that the expansion set Pandemic: In the Lab is a more satisfying solo experience.)

I also went with simpler games here, but for more intensive play sessions, you could tackle solo versions of Terraforming Mars, Scythe, Viticulture, Eldritch Horror, Elder Sign, and Ghost Stories. These games have more set-up and deeper, more complex gameplay, but also provide satisfying gameplay experiences for a single player.


Do you have any other suggestions for puzzle games and board games that are terrific for solo players, fellow PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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